Court upholds judgment in Vioxx case

September 29, 2009 10:29:46 AM PDT
The Supreme Court of New Jersey backed a $4.5 million award to the widow of a man who suffered heart problems after using Merck's painkiller Vioxx, ending of the last unresolved lawsuits related to the drug. The court dismissed Merck's appeal and upheld the award in the case McDarby v. Merck, according to the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm said the ruling was issued on May 7. A jury found that Merck and Co. failed to warn patient John McDarby about Vioxx's cardiac risks, which later caused the drug to be taken off the market.

Merck said it recently became aware of the decision and is reviewing its options.

John McDarby suffered a heart attack in 2004, and died of complications related to his heart problems in late 2007. He had been awarded $3 million for pain and suffering, and $1.5 million was awarded to his widow, Irma. The award also includes pre- and post-judgment interest.

McDarby was originally awarded $13.9 million. The portions of the award that were related to punitive damages, consumer fraud and attorney's fees were later overturned.

Merck took Vioxx off the market in September 2004 after a study showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attack or stroke. The company later agreed to pay $4.85 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits. The McDarby case was one of a few that were excluded from that settlement.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said it has won 11 of the 16 Vioxx-related cases that went to trial.

In afternoon trading, shares of Merck rose 4 cents to $32.07.

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